Good reads for bad times

Good reads for bad times

Everyone has their own ways to pull themselves through the bad times. Mine is simple: get away from the source of the problem, allow myself space and time to let it out and unwind, listen to calming music and read books. Well, wine usually happens somewhere in there, too.

So if reading is your cup of tea on a rainy day, too, today I will talk about the three books that brightened my recent dark days.

“The chimp paradox: the acclaimed management programme for confidence, success, and happiness” by Steve Peters (available on Amazon here).


Summary: there are two minds in your mind – one is of a chimp, and the other one is a human – and the two make you think and do different things. The chimp mind is animalistic and acts on instincts and emotions. The human mind is analytical and logical. And the trick is to tame your inner chimp to be a better human.

For example, if you drive and someone cuts in front of you, you probably will want to scream something nasty at the MF and teach him a lesson by speeding up and cutting in back in front of him. That’s your chimp. But then you think it’s not a good idea because ending up in an accident just because someone else is being an arsehole is not worth it. That’s your human.

What stuck with me: an example where someone is treated unfairly at work, and the guy is going through all sorts of scenarios in his head – from confronting the horrible boss, taking him to court and making him pay to admitting that life is unfair, there are battles he can’t win however right he is in his situation and walking away may the best option.

It’s that bit about unfairness that struck a cord. “You have to fight for your happy ending” has been my mantra for many years but “The chimp paradox” made me realise that I took it too literally. For me, fighting was all about getting justice and proving that I am right, but that was largely about themthey must see how wrong they were and they must suffer. Why didn’t I fight for myself, though? Because my peace of mind and my integrity should be more important than someone else’s wrongdoings.

And then “you have to fight for your happy ending” became something else: it’s about fighting for your right to be yourself and to live your life by your own rules. And if it means walking away to find another place under the sun, then be it. Because doing that is a fight of its own.

“Mindset- changing the way you think to fulfill your potential” by Carol Dwerk (available on Amazon here).

417lu0cphcl-_sy346_Summary: there are two types of mindsets, fixed and growth-focused, and the two think differently in the same scenarios.

A fixed mindset is when you create stiff criteria of success and operate within those frames. An example here is: “I worked hard, and I deserved that promotion, but someone else got it. I failed, and because I did my best and I couldn’t do more, this must be the limit of my abilities”.

A growth mindset is when your idea of success grows as you gain more experience and continue to learn. In this case, an example is: “I worked hard, and I deserved that promotion, but someone else got it. I failed, and it sucks, but what can I learn from it and what can I change to get that promotion?”

What stuck with me: failure is a very fluid idea. There are situations in life where failure is fatal – like when you cross a busy street and fail to look up from your Facebook feed, and the last thing you see in life is a bus speeding at you. That’s an epic fail. But other failures are unfortunate events – they can throw you under the bus (pun intended), but you will survive and maybe even learn a life lesson or two.

Years ago, I met a guy and fell in love, and a few weeks later he told me he’d decided to marry his ex. I was devastated. And then a couple of years later, there was another one who didn’t even bother to tell me anything, he just disappeared, and when I accidentally saw him again, he had a ring on his finger. That’s when I thought that I must be bringing marital luck to men even though I’m a marital failure myself, and so to deal with my misery, I drank ten shots of tequila in two hours. Fast forward to today: I am happily married and still madly in love with my husband. What did it all teach me? Two things.

One: there is someone out there who will want to marry you (= who will want to grow old with you, whatever the legal aspect), so no, you’re not a marital failure. You’re not a failure of any kind if it comes to that.

Two: don’t drink ten shots of tequila in two hours. The worst hangover of my life.

“The subtle art of not giving a f*ck: a counterintuitive approach to living a good life” by Mark Manson (available on Amazon here).

51vnlzbfpxl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Summary: best given by Mark himself.

In life, we have a limited amounts of fucks to give. So you must choose your fucks wisely.

I’ve been reading Mark’s blog for a few years now, and it’s no wonder this book is a bestseller because the world needs a piece of literature that shows a massive up middle finger to the social pressure to be exceptional and happy. It’s refreshing to see a book that tells you that you’re not a special snowflake which adorns the world around it; that your problems are not unique and you’re not the first and not the last to suffer; that never-ending positivity is counter-productive to being truly happy. The ultimate truth is: the world is unfair, people are often jerks, dreams don’t always come true, and it’s okay. Because you can’t change the world, but you can give fewer fucks about it.

Why it stuck with me: it reassured me that I’m not a freak who sometimes feels down in a world where everyone else’s life is always phenomenally awesome. But in my life, shit happens: I make mistakes, my family members get ill, my boss has a bad day, my dinner burns, my bank statement laughs at me and so on. And when shit happens, I feel shit about it, and so I save my happy face for happier days. And at last, there is a book that says it’s alright.

So what are the key lessons I’ve learnt from the three books?

  1. You can’t change the world but you can change the way you feel and think about it.
  2. Failure is not a matter of fact but an opinion and the opinion is most often yours. It is also not the end of the world but an unfortunate event from which you can recover.
  3. It’s normal to be normal and to choose the fucks you give about people and things in your life.

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